The Hancock County Historical Society awarded Nathan & Tina Powers with the honor of 2023 Historians of the Year at the 50th Anniversary Celebration in Hawesville on Saturday, September 16th. President Charlene Corley presented the couple with the award, and they each delivered very heartfelt acceptance speeches to a crowd of around 50 people.
Nathan began with telling the crowd about how he and his wife, Tina, had visited the Hawesville Cemetery earlier this year during the placement of U.S. Flags on Memorial Day. “After the flags were placed,” he said, “a breeze came by and the flags were waving, and sacrifice is what was brought to my mind.”
“I had three things that I wanted to bring up,” Nathan continued. “Years ago, while they were still alive, a friend came and said their father was very down and depressed and asked if I could go talk to him. I went and I could tell he was very disturbed. He said, ‘I was in service. I had to shoot somebody. There was a young man and it was him or me. He didn’t see me. I shot first. Can I be forgiven for that?’
What do you tell a man? What do you say to him? I thought, ‘Do people know what these guys have to put up with?’ He was older and that was the first thing on his mind – ‘Can I be forgiven?’”
Sacrifices made during Military Service
“The second one,” he said. “I’m not going to name him, he was called to go into service and his mother was dying. He asked for a leave. They gave him one but she passed while he was there. About the same time, this gentleman’s wife had just had a baby. The baby weighed about 2 pounds and an ounce. This was back in the 40s, and usually they don’t live. They said, ‘Do you need to have another leave?’ And he said, ‘No, other men have gone and it’s my turn.’ So he left his wife and young child.”
Sacrifices made by their Families
“I got to thinking of a third one,” he said, “this young lady who had babes in arm, got on a train and had to see her husband off. I thought how we talk about the service personnel, but we don’t talk about the ones left behind. She went out, traveled by train and went to the East Coast to see him off. They had spent just a little bit of time and she got to talk to him and say, ‘I’ll see you when you get back.’ – not knowing if he’d ever return.
You don’t know if they’re ever going to come back. He hoped she and the babies would be alright and she said, ‘Everything will be alright.’ She came back on a train and, usually, community, family and friends would come in. Back then, there weren’t a lot of programs for them. There are now, but there weren’t then so she depended upon family, friends and the community – which is something that I believe, right now, we have lost along the line. We’ve lost it and we need to get it back.
We don’t know the sacrifice these people made. That needs to be told because we’re losing that. They don’t teach history now. They want to do away with history. I don’t understand because their voices are silent now, they’re gone. These stories are just echoes that fell in my ear. We’re forgetting the military people that have sacrificed so much. They did something for the nation that a lot of people don’t realize. They got us where we are now.”
Young Service People
“Even the youth of today, the ones in service now – they are doing US a service and sometimes we don’t appreciate it,” Nathan said. “We need to talk to them because they’ve got stories just like the ones I told that need to be told before their voices go silent…I spoke first because, like a dutiful husband, I always let my wife have the last say.”
Nathan handed the microphone over to Tina. “I just want to reiterate what he said. Thank you all for being here,” she said. “I want to say this in the memory of my mom and dad (Franklin & Elizabeth Meserve) because they were very involved with the Hancock County Museum. They instilled that history in us and in this community, through the church and through other areas of the community. If you haven’t been to the museum, I encourage you to go. There are a lot of neat things to see.”
Importance of Local History
Tina continued by reciting a quote by Woodrow Wilson (28th President of the United States), “’A spot of local history is like an inn by the highway. It is a state of our afar journey. It is a place that national history has passed through.’ Our local history is so important, you all. It’s so important because it’s how we got a lot of our national history. Throughout thousands of small towns in the United States, they all have their own history. Learn about the local history. My regret is that I didn’t get involved sooner. I wish I had gotten involved a lot sooner. We really enjoy it.”
Nathan added, “In our two museums, there are artifacts that need to be looked at while there are still people that know some of these stories [behind them]. There is so much in the museum – pictures, etc., that we don’t know the story of. Some of them we do, but a lot of them we don’t.”